Finding a dentist you like is a personal thing. Everyone has ideas of what they’re looking for in a dentist, which may differ from what someone else wants. Someone may want a dentist who will get you in and out of the office in a timely manner, while another might want a slower process where you get an explanation of the procedures at every turn. However, in spite of these differences, most of us can likely agree we want a good dentist to treat our teeth and gums, will deal with us honestly, and will offer these services at an affordable price.
Here are some considerations we here at Dr. Joe Thomas Dentistry think can help you find a dentist you like.
To find a dentist you like:
- Determine the type of dentist you need, such as a family dentist, endodontist, etc.
- Ask family and friends for recommendations. Or ask your family doctor or pharmacist for suggestions. If you’re moving, ask your current dentist for referrals.
- Look up dentist reviews online. But reviews do not necessarily paint a complete picture.
- Visit the dentist and see if you like them.
- If you don’t like that dentist or notice any red flags while there, then repeat these search steps.
Finding a dentist you like takes time, but spending the time now will save you a lot of future headaches.
The Signs of a Good Dentist
Lots of people don’t like visiting the dentist. There are some valid reasons for that.
First of all, you work and then wait around, as a bored receptionist half-heartedly greets you. Once you’re in the dental chair, you bite down on those plastic, wing-shaped devices which are much too big for your mouth (to hold the film for the x-ray). The dental hygienist slowly takes x-rays of your mouth.
The cleaning starts, and you might get spray in the mouth and face from the ultrasonic scaler the dental hygienist holds while she picks at your teeth with the dental probe. After the cleaning is a consultation with your dentist who says you need work to fill some cavities that were found. It will all cost a lot and force you to take more time off work and endure more uncomfortable treatment.
That sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? But picture this instead:
The dental office is a clean and relaxing space, with calming music in the background and a friendly face, who asks how you and your family are (calling you and your family members by name). After a short wait in the waiting room, you’re escorted from the lobby and to a room for x-rays. The dental hygienist knows this is uncomfortable so she makes it quick. Next is the cleaning. The hygienist is precise so you only have minimal water sprayed on the outside of your mouth. The cleaning ends with that fresh, sensational feeling of clean teeth. Finally, the dentist discusses any other work you may need. There is no pressure to get added work all done right away or pay for it all at once. The dentist can take care of one or two issues at your convenience (but may still stress the importance of seeing to them) and works out a payment plan to help you cover the cost.
The experience is remarkably different, right? That is what it’s like to go to a dentist you like. But how do you find a dentist like that?
The Qualities of a Good Dentist
- Flexible Hours and Scheduling. Many people benefit from a dental office with availability beyond the typical 8 to 5, Monday through Friday time frame when people are still at work. Even if availability is a small window beyond that 8 to 5 time frame, that still offers some options. As for follow-up appointments, find out if you must wait to see the dentist 3-4 weeks out for follow-up work or do they have more availability than that? While this may be a sign of a popular dentist, it doesn’t do too much good for you if your tooth is hurting and you’d rather not wait.
- Has a Clean Office Space. One part of a positive experience is entering a clean and orderly office. If the office seems disorganized and unclean, it may not be the best place to get work done on your mouth. Be sure to also pay attention to the hygienists and dentists once you’re in the office chair. See if they are diligent about changing their gloves if they’ve adjusted the overhead light, dug through drawers, etc. It’s important–you don’t want the office’s germs transferring to your mouth.
- Short Wait Time. A good dental office often tries to reduce patient wait times. Sometimes emergencies come up that a dentist may need to handle so it’s possible you will have some wait time. However, if you wait long periods each time you visit the office, it could mean that the dentist doesn’t value your time as much as his. Good dentists try to be punctual, if possible.
- Breaks Up the Cost. Dental work and treatment is often expensive. In addition to finding a discount dental plan to help reduce dental costs, you may want a dentist who can work out some type of payment plan for dental work. Or maybe they can break up treatment over several visits to help you afford the work. A good dentist understands that paying for dental work is a sacrifice and difficult on families. They don’t abuse that.
- Doesn’t Push Upsells. Many good dentists will upsell other products or services (electric toothbrushes, teeth whitening, etc.), but they don’t push the upsells too hard. They won’t put pressure on you to purchase or keep asking after refusal. Some dentists won’t even mention upsells; they just have signs around the office advertising them. If you ask they will be happy to discuss it.
- Gets to Know Patients. Does your dentist know your name or ask questions about different events and areas of your life you’ve mentioned before? Some people associate this behavior with good dentistry–dentists who try to get to know their patients. They do this by actively listening to what you say and asking follow-up questions about things they remember you saying. They also warn you about necessary dental treatment they know you’re anxious about. For example, if you don’t like shots, your dentist should remember and try to distract you so you don’t focus on it. This can create a more positive dental experience. However, this point is a bit objective as some people prefer a dentist who is quick and to the point with treatment. Others want a relatable dentist. Dr. Joe Thomas is good at both.
- Treats the Staff Respectfully. Do the receptionist and dental hygienist seem to like their jobs? Do the employees speak kindly and respectfully to one another? Everyone has difficult days, but if employ speaking badly or harshly with each other, that may be a sign to find another dental office.
- Follows Up on Treatment. A good dentist follows up with patients after the treatment to see how they’re doing, how they’re feeling, and to make sure treatment worked as intended (such as taking away tooth pain, etc.).
- Willing to Answer Questions. How does the dentist field questions? A good dentist will be welcome your questions. Come in with a list of prepared questions and see how they respond. Does the dentist brush them aside or does he take your concerns seriously and address them with patience and gentleness?
Warning Signs of Bad Dentistry
It helps to look at the other side, the bad dentists, to save you from a lot of frustration and anxiety later.
- Extensive and Expensive Treatment Recommendations. Varied diagnoses and treatment estimates from different dentists are common. However, hearing drastically different recommendations could be a warning sign that a dentist isn’t being honest with you. If you are unsure which one, it may be worth the investment in another opinion. An example of extensive treatment includes the dentist telling you that all of your fillings need replacing. If you haven’t had a history of dental problems, take a step back and go to another dentist for a second opinion. It’s worth the time and extra money (for a second dental visit) to save hundreds of dollars, if not thousands. This is the most common pattern of fraud: to recommend unnecessary treatment. So while it’s possible your prior dentist missed something or something has developed during your transition between dentists, drastic problems usually don’t develop so quickly and they usually aren’t overlooked.
- Pressure to Get More Treatment Immediately. Unless you have serious dental problems affecting your overall health or they can get worse if left unchecked, most dental treatments aren’t emergencies. They may become so over time, so you want to get them fixed as soon as possible. But pressure to get all of that treatment done in one day may be a stretch. Most dentists are happy to type up a treatment plan for you to consider and then make a follow-up appointment to start work. They can usually split treatment over several appointments, helping with the cost.
- Pushing Upsells. Many dentists have started upselling other products, but it’s the way they upsell that is a red flag or not. If they become overly pushy with the upsell and don’t seem to take no for an answer, you may want to find another dentist. Dentists are, primarily, to care for our dental health, not salesmen trying to get ahead.
- Recommending Unnecessary Treatment. Some recommended treatments/procedures are unnecessary and may be a red flag that indicates you’re getting scammed, such as full dental x-rays at every visit; or a full set of new fillings as soon as possible; or deep cleaning if you don’t have frequent gum infections or periodontal problems.
Questions for a New Dentist
Consider what’s important to you in a dentist and add those questions to this list. These are common questions to ask dentists and can be helpful to know if you intend to see a dentist long-term.
- Where did you study dentistry? What are your qualifications to practice?
- How long have you been a dentist/how long has your office been open?
- Which methods of payment method do you accept? Do you offer payment plans?
- Which insurance plans or discount plans do you accept?
- What are your office hours? Are you available after hours or on weekends for dental emergencies?
- Can you provide care for adults and children? Does your office work with kids frequently?
- Do you have the latest technology in your office?
- Do you offer different options (materials) for fillings, dental implants, and dentures?
- What kind of anesthesia do you offer?
- Are there special amenities like TV or music?
Contact Dr. Joe Thomas today and see how positive a dental experience can be.